Jacqui (jacqui) wrote,


By jimi izrael

When I was in high school and becoming image-conscious, I asked my father if it was true that clothes make the man. "You're a man on two feet," he said, disgusted, rolling his eyes a bit. "Man makes the man." Back then I wore WilliWear, by black designer Willie Smith I had an eye for classic style, even back then. I got laughed at because of my allegiance to his brand, but I wore his fine suits and separates by the season - well ahead of the curve, well ahead of my time. Twenty-odd years later, fashion sheep will be loyal to any tag with a name on it, but I am still the urban style iconoclast. This summer, Im rocking a sarong almost exclusively.

It was the fall-winter of 2000 when I first thought seriously about sporting a wrap. I was going to see D'Angelo and I wanted to sport a different look. See, just like in your town, dudes be wearing any type of Sunday suit hook-ups or technicolor ensemble to the spot, and I had to separate myself from the suckas. Besides, I'm ashamed to say that I don't own a suit that fits, and those wack fake Versace shirts aren't my flow my style is a little more subtle than that. So, naturally, a sarong seemed like a logical alternative to consider.

I wore it to the concert and caught snickers from the derby and doo-rag crowd. None of them had heart enough to say anything stupid - after all, I'm kind of a big guy. I saw one of my dudes at the spot and he ran up to me, mouth agape. "That is just the phatest s--t," he said. "I wish I was man enough to play a wrap are the sisters checkin' for it?" Were they ever. My girl really dug the look on me, and so did everybody else's girl all eyes and wet thighs whenever I passed by. Afterwards I retired the wrap, just breaking it out occasionally. But I vowed I would find a way to play that style every day, if I could.

This summer, I decided I was gonna wear wraps in place of shorts shorts make my boys sweaty and give me heat rash and with the heat in the 90s on the regular, this seemed like the time to set it off. So most days nowadays, you'll find me on the streets of Cleveland, downtown no less, in a skirt. To be honest, there is little to no reaction in my hometown - nobody even blinks. I don't know if its because I'm a somewhat well known writer here, and people assume anybody who writes for a living must be crazy anyway. Or maybe between the two feet of hair and the floor-length sarong, their circuits are just completely overloaded: Too Black, Too Strong. Whatever the reason, I walk the streets unmolested, save for the women who stop midstride and fall out of car windows trying to check my steez. "You are the sexiest thing I have seen today," said somebody else's woman, staring a hole through the front of my gray and black wrap. "How would you know?" I responded. "Its still early." What can I say? Chicks dig the skirt. I even wear it to work. Dats right and I work for the white man, just like you.

I'm employed by a major not-for-profit company, and there is nothing in the dress code that says I can't wear a sarong to work. The first time, there were second looks and a strange inquiry ("What do you have up under your skirt?" asked one of my female coworkers. My response? "How badly do you want to know?"). But my bosses are mellow they accept my wrap as an extension of my Afrocentricity, and that bodes well for their progressive thinking and commitment to diversity.

The wrap has come to symbolize my refusal to be reconstructed by whatever people's assumptions are. It's also the ultimate assertion of manhood for me: it speaks to my roots, my warrior status, my fearless nature in a way that fake dashikis don't. I mean, it's like there's an "S" on my chest or something I have never felt more masculine, not ever, than when I don the wrap. Why? Well, maybe because it is so not a question of sexual preference or identity. I don't have any gay friends with balls enough to wear a sarong. Besides, its unisex, stupid if all it takes to make you question your sexual identity is a garment, you've got more questions than I can answer, RuPaul.

See, the thing about wearing a sarong is that, as a man, you have to have a certain confidence, a certain arrogance. You must be absolutely secure in your manhood flat out or it won't come off well. You'll look like a man in a skirt: clumsy, misplaced and utterly ridiculous. In a wrap, whatever where-with-all you have as a man is up for scrutiny: you've created an artificial vulnerability that requires strength to secure. Plainly speaking, a man in a sarong projects an audacity and demands a respect that khakis don't. Fact is, you might not be man enough to pull it off. If you think youre ready, I got a few tips for you. Finding a wrap is more than a notion its not like Laura Ashley makes a men's skirt line. The trick for me was to find something masculine a tough skirt, if you will. I couldn't find what I was looking for at first, and the cultural shops in my town wanted too much bread for some of the stuff they had. So I improvised: I went to my local head shop and got a few of those groovy, thin cotton throw-rug joints for 20 clams each.

Choose earth tones when picking out a wrap. Browns, blacks, greens, burnt oranges and yellows are preferable bright colors denote femininity. Only traditional or tribal patterns no tie-dyes or flowers, Nancy. Wear fitted T-shirts or short-sleeved shirts on top: let them guns blaze. Footwear is player's choice blunted toes for winter and sandals for the summertime look best. If you hot like that, take a bold leap and play a three-button jacket with an open flare-collar shirt. Mudcloth is an okay material for winter, but roll with a light to heavy cotton in the hotter months. Wear linen pants up under in the wintertime; in the summer, anything goes.

So here I am, on the street of Cleveland, Ohio, in a sarong. Rollin' hard, Jack. I go out of town and sport it, and cats ask if I'm from overseas or something. But I know there are a few cats on either coast wrappin' on the regular. Fashion comes and goes, but style is timeless. And here I am: well ahead of the curve, well ahead of my time. I'm pretty sure this style won't catch on, but maybe it should. Dad was right: clothes don't make the man. A man can stand on two feet sarong and all.

First published: August 02, 2001

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